The Empty Cup: Identity, Alcohol, and Material Culture in the Civil War Era

Author(s): Maggie L. Yancey

Year: 2013


During the Civil War, alcohol use and abuse took on a new life. Soldiers went on drunken rampages, civilians took "sprees" sometimes ending in death, the Union imposed a whiskey tax, and the Confederacy experimented with prohibition. But what did it really mean? From a general’s beloved brandy flask, and a southern lady’s wineglasses, to a disheartened soldier’s identifying himself as an empty cup, gendered attachments to the material culture of alcohol show how Civil War era Americans constructed identity. Material culture related to alcohol and the subject’s attachment to it reveals a great deal about the intersection of race, class, and gender in that person’s life. A textual approach to material culture and consumer choices, "unearthed" from texts, newspapers, and other documents enriches our understanding of artifacts unearthed from Civil War era sites. For many, material culture related to alcohol became a symbolic and actual locus of the self.

Cite this Record

The Empty Cup: Identity, Alcohol, and Material Culture in the Civil War Era. Maggie L. Yancey. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Leicester, England, U.K. 2013 ( tDAR id: 428369)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 169